On the surface cider and tea seem like an unlikely and surprising combination but bring together the talents of two of New Zealand’s leading artisanal beverage producers – Zeffer Cider Co. and Tea Total – and you have the world’s first tea-infused cider.
The idea to create a tea-infused cider came about over a regular Friday evening product development brainstorming session between Zeffer’s cider makers Sam Whitmore and Jody Scott.
“Tea contains many similar attributes that we look for in our Zeffer Cider range. It’s a beverage that is refreshing, has a rich history, and the tannins from the tea complement the cider very well” says Jody.
The pair began the process of sourcing tealeaves and blends from various tea merchants around New Zealand. The next step involved steeping various te leaves into hot water before adding the tea to freshly made cider.
“Our first reaction was – ‘how has this not been done before’ – it’s such a great pairing,” says Jody.
“When we trialled the Tea Total teas, we knew that we had found a unique partner, with the unusual loose leaf tea varietals we needed to kick off our Zeffer Tea Party Series of cider.”
“We needed something special but we were also keen to collaborate with an artisanal producer that shared the same philosophy and was open to innovation – Tea Total definitely ticked all these boxes,” says Jody.
There was a conscious decision made by the craft cider makers to launch the series using a classic black tea to showcase how the structure, tannin and flavours perfectly compliment that of their apple cider.
So the first cider in the series – the Zeffer English Breakfast Cider, uses a traditional black tea from Tea Total’s signature breakfast blend which is made up of ‘leafy grades’ available only in Sri Lanka.
The result they say is a smooth, refreshing drop with great tannin and a lingering iced tea finish.
Zeffer trialled the first of their cider tea creations, Zeffer English Breakfast Cider – through a limited keg release with selected Auckland craft beer bars including the likes of Brothers Beer, Vultures Lane, 16 Tun Freehouse and The Lumsden Freehouse. A small number of kegs were also exported to the United States, Thailand and Denmark.
Zeffer’s sales and marketing manager Josh Townsend, who coordinated the export effort said the uptake was extremely positive and affirmed that this world-first was worth pursuing. “The Zeffer English Breakfast Cider was really well-received locally and we sold out in record time and this has given us the confidence to move on to the next creation in our Tea Party Series,” says Townsend.
Next out of the barrels is the Zeffer Wild Flowers Cider keg release, which will launch in mid-April. This second release will also be produced in a limited quantity and will include more diverse flavours than the first. ‘Wild Flowers’ is a blend of black tea, green tea, jasmine, rose, sunflowers and calendula flowers.
“This was a crowd favourite in the testing phase,” says Scott, who describes the result of this blend as, “mango and orange on the nose and a complex palate of floral notes.”
Zeffer Wild Flowers Cider is available at selected establishments around Auckland now, with further releases in the Zeffer Tea Party Series arriving over the winter months with three bottled offerings available through retailers at the start of Spring.